Derek Barnett, DE, Tennessee
6’3 270 lbs
Tape Viewed: 2015 vs. Alabama, 2016 vs. Alabama, 2016 vs. Texas A&M, 2016 vs. Florida
Barnett is bizzare to watch play. At times, he looks sluggish beyond belief and yet covers ground quickly. At times he looks like he’s carrying way too much weight on that relatively small (for the position) frame. And yet, you see this outstanding quickness, hand fighting ability, bend around the edge and excellent finish that have made him a premiere sack specialist in the SEC.
Derek Barnett also boasts the experience and consistency against top level competition, at times taking over the entire game against Alabama’s Cam Robinson (also a potential first-rounder). This is the one question mark in Myles Garrett’s game, so it’s certainly encouraging to see Barnett thrive regardless of who he’s lined up against.
Moves: 2 out of 5
It seems that this is the area on tape, consistently, where Barnett shows a lack of versatility. He’s pretty much just a finesse rusher, using superior agility and hand fighting to weave his way through lineman. He must add more to the arsenal at the next level.
Technique: 14 out of 15
Of this, Barnett may be among the cleanest in the draft, his hand use, footwork and control of his body allow him to consistently put himself in the correct positions and gain advantages on his opponents where sheer athleticism would seem to indicate that he should be less effective.
Bend: 4 out of 5
This is one of the biggest reasons Barnett was the leading sack specialist in his three-season span in the SEC. He has that uncanny ability to contort his body in any way to get around the edge, and also the knowledge of exactly when to do this for optimal opportunity at the QB. The one concern I’d have here is that he tends to round out his rush at times, though this is only a problem on a few snaps on tape.
Finish: 5 out of 5
This is the other aspect that leads to those insane sack numbers, Barnett knows what to do when he gets home, it’s a sack, a tackle, in fact he had a play where he tipped a pass to himself for an interception. If Barnett is near to making a play, it’s a safe bet he’ll make it.
Tenacity: 4 out of 5
Not to say that Barnett ever takes plays off, on the contrary, he’ll chase across formation when the play is moving away from him, but he seems to realize he doesn’t have the speed to catch plays that go beyond him, and he often doesn’t try.
Consistency: 10 out of 10
What more can you say for a man who has averaged 10+ sacks per season in his 3 years as a starter against the top-level competition he faces playing in college football’s premiere conference? He’s rock solid steady.
Edge Setting: 8 out of 10
The only times I really see this to be an issue is when the play calls for a pass rush, his quickness and anticipation gets him upfield early and can sometimes take him out of running plays.
Tackling: 9 out of 10
While not a perfect tackler, there are very few discernable issues in positioning, technique, want-to or ability to bring down any ball carrier that comes his way. He’ll continue to develop that consistency at the next level and should be among the league’s most reliable.
Double Teams: 3 out of 5
I wouldn’t say that Barnett lacks the functional strength to hold up in double teams, but he does seem to lack the desire to use it, this is shown by his distinct lack of a bull rush, however, he is quite effective at using his finesse to work through double teams and make plays on ball carriers.
Lane Discipline: 10 out of 10
Barnett is as smart and pro-ready as any evaluator could dream in terms of his ability to see offensive plays developing and put himself in the right position to leverage the play to his advantage.
Consistency: 10 out of 10
Honestly, Barnett never looks to be out of position, or tired, or overwhelmed by level of competition and this quality extends to his run defense.
Reliability: 9 out of 10
Though perfectly available throughout his college career, Barnett has been limited in recent weeks (going into his pro day) with a hamstring injury. He is expected to perform regardless, and that’s been Barnett’s MO as a player, but going forward, teams will need to be aware of that potential and keep him in the ice bath after games.
Total Prospect Rating: 89 out of 100
Pro Comparison: Trent Cole, DE, Indianapolis Colts
Sharing nearly the exact same dimensions, elite hand and foot technique, ability to get after the quarterback and penchant for punishing hits once they arrive, the comparison came to me pretty immediately. Cole has been an underappreciated impact rusher for most of his career, who boasts an all-around game that suits him to any defense. The kind of skills that Barnett boasts should give him similar versatility. I expect Barnett to get off to a quicker start than Cole, who took a few years before he became elite, production-wise.